Saturday Night Treats (Part 2 of 3)… Feta and Olive Herb Focaccia

… to continue where I left off from my previous post (Skewered Prawns with Zataar, Cumin and Red Chilli) I’ll move on to part 2 of my dinner…

A Feta and Olive Herb Focaccia

The baker’s wage… a mini focaccia… all to myself.

I spread out the dough a bit thinner than I normally would (do take a look at my earlier post on Cheesy Herbed Focaccia with Sun-dried Tomatoes) and I spritzed the oven with water just to get that crusty finish to the top and sides of the bread.

Look at these plump olives… delicious!

Here’s a list of ingredients for the focaccia –

3 cups A.P. Flour

12gms fresh yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup + 2 tablespoons tepid water

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon (+ extra for sprinkling over the focaccia b4 baking) dried parsley

1 tablespoon dried oregano

1/4 cup olive oil (+ extra for lining the bowl and brushing over the top of the focaccia)

3/4 cup chopped olives

3/4 cup feta (cubed)

pinch of sea salt (for sprinkling over the focaccia… not too much as the olives and feta are both salty… you can omit the salt too coz it’s not necessary in this recipe. But I love salt… and I have low blood pressure, so salt is often my best friend.)

Prepare the yeast the usual way (I used fresh yeast) … water, sugar and leave it for 15 minutes till it gets nice n foamy.

In a separate bowl sift the flour and add salt and the dried herbs. Mix it with the yeast, adding the 1/4 cup of olive oil and knead to form a soft dough. Leave the dough to prove for about 2 hours then knock back and knead again, dividing the dough into half. Using your hands shape the focaccia into the basic shape you like before transferring it onto a parchment lined baking tray. I made one oblong, one rectangular focaccia and a mini focaccia (I call it the baker’s wage :-)). Then using your fingertips punch and jab the dough to give it its dimpled look.

Generously sprinkle on the olives and dot the focaccia with feta, before leaving it to prove for another 1 1/2 hour, covered with a towel. Once the focaccia has risen, brush the top with olive oil, and sprinkle on some dried parsley and whole sea salt (optional).

Bake the bread in an oven pre-heated to 200°C for about 20 – 25 minutes…

Allow the focaccia to cool completely on a wire rack before slicing into it. I used a pizza cutter and we ate almost an entire focaccia right then and there… dipping it into some extra virgin olive oil mixed with a combination of zataar, parsley, oregano and whole salt. I should send this over to YeastSpotting

And served the rest with my platter of skewered prawns and potato salad…

Basil and Seed Loaf and a BLT

In one of her letters to Vita Sackville-West, Virginia Woolf wrote:

“… does it strike you that one’s friendships are long conversations, perpetually broken off, but always about the same thing with the same person?”

The beauty of friendships is just that. That despite the ebb and flow of life taking it places, crashing it over rocks, battering it against embankments, and sucking it into whirlpools, there’s always that unseen thread, that one stray link that binds friends together, whether it’s a common interest or a pet peeve. And so we banter, we fill our lives with words, with conversation… but as Virginia said, it’s “about the same thing with the same person”.

Which makes me grateful for all my friends and acquaintances, people I’ve had the good fortune to have encountered, who’ve filled my life with their presence, for howsoever short or long a time it may be or have been. People I’ve known for much of my life, and those I’ve only just met or have only encountered in virtual space… I’m grateful for all, for everything… and for Virginia Woolf who made me fall in love with books and reading, and expanded my mind and heart in ways I never thought possible. And who made me realize that it’s okay to be a maverick, and a non-conformist and to cock a snoot at the world, and cook and bake and clay boy make, and paint cartons because I’m falling short of storage, and if I have to keep them around for a little while longer they may as well look pretty.

Speaking of all things nice, I just baked a loaf of bread, a seed loaf, a Basil and Seed Loaf that I’ll be sending across to Susan at YeastSpotting.

Packed full of goodness, this loaf is nutritious and makes fantastic sandwiches, which is great because summer brunch on most days ends up being a sandwich, open or closed, with or without a salad on the side. These sandwich loaves are wonderful sliced thin or thick, or even cut into croutons and toasted to be tossed into a salad or as a garnish for a cold or hot soup. I love the crust on this loaf and that happened because I placed a tray full of water on the lower shelf of the oven and sprayed the inside walls to create steam.

I used a variety of seeds in this loaf, sunflower, melon, black and white sesame and flax seeds, toasting them a bit, and then cooling them completely before adding them to the dough.

Here’s what you’ll need –

2 1/2 cups All Purpose Flour

12gms fresh yeast

3/4 cup warm water

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup powdered milk

1/3 cup mixed toasted seeds  

2 tablespoon chopped fresh basil

3 tablespoon sun-dried tomato flavoured Extra Virgin Olive Oil (aka evoo + extra for lining the bowl, coating the bread pan and for brushing the loaf before baking)

All you have to do is activate the yeast with the sugar and water, before adding the flour, powdered milk, evoo and salt. Mix to form a rough dough. Now add the toasted seeds and chopped basil, making sure that it is well distributed throughout the dough. Knead for a good 10 – 12 minutes. Place the dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling wrap and leave the dough to prove for 2 hours.

Post first prove

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead after the first proving, then shape and transfer the loaf into an oiled and cornmeal dusted bread pan. I rolled up the loaf, just for fun and left it to prove for 1 ½ hours.

Rolled up… Just like that!

Made a couple of slashes into the loaf when it had risen with a sharp knife, brushed the top with some evoo and placed the loaf into a pre-heated oven into which I had placed a tray on the lower shelf.

I wanted to create a lot of steam for this loaf in order for it to get a lovely crust, so I poured some water into the hot tray, sprayed the inner walls of the oven with water and shut the door. You’ll need to spray the walls of the oven a couple of times during the baking process, but be quick and don’t open the door too much. Bake the loaf for 35 minutes at 190°C.

I turned on the grill element for a bit right at the end (5 minutes or so) to brown the top of the loaf, keeping an eye out to ensure that it got evenly browned.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 10 minutes then turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely before slicing into it.

All rolled up…

Look at that!

This loaf is great eaten with loads of butter…

But it also made an excellent Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato Sandwich… An open-faced BLT I dished up at brunch the next day with a Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad.

Now… If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know that I always say that everything tastes better with bacon and booze, not necessarily in that order and not necessarily together. This recipe uses just one of my favourites… Bacon, marinaded in Barbeque sauce, Dijon mustard and honey with a couple of twists of the pepper mill and then pan fried…


I then paired my BLT with a light and refreshing salad with a dressing that used some of the same marinade that I coated the bacon with.

I may as well give you all the ingredients at once just to make it a bit easier… have all the ingredients in place… mise-en-place. 

For the Sandwich you’ll need –

2 slices Bread (I used my Basil and Seed Loaf… sliced 1/2″ thick, and toasted with a drizzle of evoo)

3 – 4 rashers back bacon (marinaded and pan-fried or oven roasted)

2 medium tomatoes (blanched, quartered and deseeded – marinaded in 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar + 1 tablespoon evoo with a pinch of black pepper)

2 large chillies – roasted, skinned, deseeded and drizzled with 2 teaspoons of the Salad Marinade

(I used a local variety of fat green chillies called Bhavnagri Chillies which had a fair amount of bite to them, perfect for my sandwich)

a small handful of Rocket leaves

1 – 2 large leaves of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

For the Salad –

a large handful of Rocket leaves

a large handful of Iceberg lettuce (torn up)

3 – 4 pieces of Bocconcini

a handful of dried cranberries

large pinch of black pepper

1 teaspoon Orange zest

For the Bacon Marinade –

2 tablespoons Barbeque sauce

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon honey

(You’ll need less than half the marinade to coat the bacon. Reserve the rest for the salad dressing)

large pinch of freshly milled black pepper while frying the bacon

For the Salad Dressing –

the rest of the bacon marinade

juice of 1/2 lemon

juice of 1/2 orange

pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon evoo

(Mix the dressing well and chill till required)

To construct the sandwich lets get started with pan frying the bacon, for which I brushed the pan with just a wee bit of oil, then lowered in the slices of marinaded bacon and cooked them on a medium to low flame till the fat melts and the bacon starts to get gorgeously caramelised. I love those little burnt looking bits on top… and I’ve got to admit that I started with 4 rashers and was left with 3 to make my sandwich. The one found its way into my stomach as soon as it was out of the pan and it was delicious 🙂

So once the bacon’s done, keep it aside and get started on the bread, slicing and then pan- toasting the slices with a drizzle of evoo. Let the bread cool down a bit before you start assembling.

First to go onto the gorgeous bread is the lettuce which I tossed in some of the salad marinade. Followed by a layer of tomato, then topped with a layer of green chillies and finally topped with the bacon…

Rocket and Iceberg Lettuce

Plum Tomatoes

Roasted Large Bhavnagri Chillies

Now that’s a BLT!

For the Lettuce, Bocconcini and Cranberry Salad – start by tearing up the lettuce into a bowl, toss in the cranberries and zest the orange. Then tear up the Bocconcini and add it to the salad, spoon over the chilled salad dressing. Toss and serve immediately.

Now drizzle some of that salad dressing (if there’s any left over over your BLT and enjoy…

Portabella n Colby Buns with Birdseye Chillies

It’s been way too long since my last post, and even longer since I baked, so naturally I was raring to go and recover lost ground. Besides there”s only that much commercially produced bread a girl can eat before her stomach begins to talk back, and I wasn’t going to wait for that to happen. But special occasions call for special treats and my bakers brain went into high-gear… hmmmm… what could I do that I hadn’t done before.

Using fresh ingredients is always a priority so I was thrilled when I saw this pack of little Portabellas sitting on the shelf in the grocery section of the supermarket.

That did it, I knew I had a recipe brewing in there somewhere. And then I spotted Colby Cheese. Now Colby is sort of like Cheddar, just more elastic and with a more neutral taste. Kind of like a mild Cheddar on a Trampoline. Perfect for pairing with my Portabellas, since I wanted those little beauties to shine through, with the cheese providing an accent, just that subtle bit of flavouring and mild richness to the bread that I finally decided on baking.

Birds-eye chillies completed the trinity and that was it. A recipe was born…

So back to the Portabellas, and do remember to wipe them clean of any grit with a wet towel, then pat them dry and slice’ em as thin as you can.

The reason… you don’t want any extra moisture retention. Mushrooms have a way with moisture, so you want to slice ’em as thin as you can and fry them on high heat with a 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil with a teaspoonful of butter. Sprinkle in a pinch of salt, so that any water hiding in those babies leaches out and catches the heat. Sizzle….. sssss…

But wait… before you add in the mushrooms to the oil n butter, fry the de-seeded and sliced birds-eye chillies. I used 4 chillies, but you can reduce the quantity if you like it milder.

WARNING: Wash, Re-wash and re-re-wash your hands after you handle the chillies. I washed my hands twice but then ended up touching my chin, and woah! So yeah, scrub your hands well, very, very well after handling those little critters. They’re tiny, but they’re dynamite.

Fry the mushrooms on high, stirring constantly, before sprinkling on the salt and a teaspoonful of freshly milled pepper. I used a melange of peppercorns; pink, green, white and black…

Once the mushrooms are fried and browned, take ’em off the flame and keep them aside to cool. Meanwhile activate the yeast, about 10 -11gms of fresh yeast in 1/2 cup of tepid water, with a 1/2 teaspoon of sugar just to get things moving. In a separate bowl, sift 2 cups of flour and add it to the activated yeast, with a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Knead the flour to a dough, then add in the mushrooms and cheese. You may need to add another 1/4 cup of flour and knead for about 10 minutes to a lovely soft dough.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl and drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil over the dough. Then cover with cling wrap and leave to prove for about 2 hours till the dough more than doubles in size.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back and turn it out onto a floured surface for a second quick knead before rolling it out into a log.

Because I wanted larger buns I portioned the log into just 7 pieces and shaped them into rounds. Covered them with muslin and left them to prove for another 45 – 50 minutes, brushing them with eggwash, dusting them with paprika and grating some extra Colby on top just before baking.Bake them in a 230° C preheated oven for 20 minutes. (Btw… I sprayed the inside of the oven a couple of times with water while the buns were baking for that crunchy crusty top I love. But that’s a matter of choice.)

Transfer the buns onto a wire rack to cool completely. Or better still, do what I did. Slice into one while it’s still warm, slather on some butter and enjoy. before dispatching the buns straight to YeastSpotting.

It has been a while.

Raisin Pull Apart Bread – Part 2

Continuing from Raisin Pull Apart Bread – Part 1

A sneak peak at what you're in for...

So to back-track a bit… this pull-apart loaf was made from scratch. Right from making my own raisin yeast water from a formulation I got on Original Yeast, to making the pre-ferment and cooking the raisins that went into the bread. 1/3 cup raisins to 1/2 cup rum and 2 tablespoons sugar, till most of the liquor evaporated and the raisins were plump and flavourful.

Use the entire pre-ferment, which should be about 2 3/4 cups. Adding it to 3 1/2 cups flour. I used a mix of All Purpose and Whole-Wheat flour (2 1/2 cups A.P.:1 cup Whole-Wheat). About a 1/2 cup of the yeast water (extra) and 1/4 – 1/3 cup of warm water, a teaspoon of salt and 4 tablespoons honey. Mixing it all together and kneading it for a bit, before adding in the rummy raisins. Make sure that the raisins are evenly distributed through the dough and knead well. Then cover the dough and leave it to prove for 6 – 8 hours or overnight.

The dough will more than double.

Knock the air out , knead it lightly, and let it stand for 15 to 20 minutes before putting the loaf together (see the picture below). Giving it a minimum of 4 – 5 hours to prove (I gave it 6 hours).

Once the dough has risen, brush the top of the loaf with melted butter and give it a lavish dusting of cinnamon, cardamom and powdered sugar.

If you think it smells divine during the prep, just wait till you pop it into your 200 degrees C preheated oven. The aroma will not just fill your kitchen, but waft through the entire house. Leave your windows open and your neighbours may drop by just to say hello.

A loaf of bread that definitely warrants the journey to YeastSpotting.

Bake the loaf until golden brown for approximately 30 – 35 minutes (turning on the upper element for the last 5 – 7). Cool for a bit in the pan and turn out onto a wire rack.

The honey and the raisins give this loaf just the right amount of sweetness.

So what are you waiting for?

This is a Raisin Pull Apart Loaf isn’t it? Pull out a nice big chunk and enjoy!

A had some extra dough left over after making the pull-apart loaf. Not enough for another loaf, but enough for two buns, generously slathered with butter, and liberally dusted with the sugar and spice mix. Baking then at 220 degrees C for about 20 – 25 minutes.

The result; a lovely deep golden brown bun with a soft white crumb.

Raisin Pull Apart Bread – Part 1

I’ve got a cold and a fever. It’s the weather, unusually cold for Mumbai which doesn’t normally have a winter. Not that I’m complaining. I love cooler weather. The only problem is that the weather’s been yo-yoing, and the weather reporters on the news need to be re-schooled.

Broadcast meteorologists… is that what they call them?

Though if you’ve been following Al Gore and are aware of  global warming, the depleted ozone layer and climate change you’ll know that it isn’t their fault any more. It’s getting seriously impossible to predict the weather from year to year. And this time around it’s not just the Himalayas and its foothills that are completely snowed under but it even snowed in the lower hilly regions in Punjab. The first time in 40 years… Go figure!

Which makes me glad that I’m a plains dweller… for at least these three months of the year. That way I can still keep my dreams of packing my bags and heading northwards alive. Dreaming of clear blue skies, clean air, chirping birds and gentle frost on leaves.

These are a few photos from a trip I took to Ramgarh, in the Kumaon foothills…

Good Afternoon!

Smiling at the sun

Look to the right

Now look to the left

Blades of... Frost

So till the sun comes out again, and the snow thaws, I’ll stay in my part of the world, and settle for the aroma of freshly baked bread in my kitchen.

When you’re city bound you’ve got to do the best you can.

I came across this recipe for raisin yeast water the other day, and I was thrilled. Fancy doing everything from scratch, right from making your own yeast. Now that’s definitely something. So I took a shot at it and it wasn’t too much of a bother, other than baking the loaf, which took a bit of preparation. But at the end, it was well worth the time and effort.

All the yeast water took was, well… water, along with raisins, and of course a clean bottle… and three to four days of letting the raisins ferment at room temperature (between 35 to 40 degrees C). It may take longer in cooler climatic conditions. I kept it out in the sun occasionally…

Raisin Yeast Water

When the fruit has broken down and the water looks like the picture above with plenty of little bubbles on the surface (after 3 – 4 days of letting it stand at room temperature) it’s time to refrigerate the bottle to prevent the water from going too sour. The yeast water can now be used whenever you’re ready to bake… usually sooner than later. Just make sure that you allow the water to come to room temperature before you use it.

I used the water after five days, making a pre-ferment with 1 1/4 cups of the raisin yeast water to 1 1/2 cups of flour. Mixed it well and kept it in an airtight container for 10 hours till it doubled (trebled actually) in volume.

Raisin Yeast Water mixed with Flour
Doubled… almost trebled
All nice and bubbly and ready for the next step

When the pre-ferment is ready, you’re ready for the next step. Kneading the dough for the Loaf you have in mind.

The pre-ferment isn’t sweet but all those raisins got me in the mood for raisin bread. I used fresh raisins (not those from the raisin water) and for added flavour steeped them in rum, cooking them down till the liquor evaporated and the raisins looked nice and plump.

Rummy Raisins

Coming up… a Raisin Pull Apart Loaf liberally dusted with cinnamon, cardamom and powdered sugar.

Rosemary Parmesan Milk Bread

Weekend’s are baking bonanza time in my house… and I’ve got my fingers crossed over a raisin yeast water that I’m trying out… but that’s for another day and another loaf.

Speaking of loaves… I’ve been craving milk bread.

Milk Bread… mm-mm… the kind made with real milk and not milk powder. The sort I ate when I was young and when Bandra (in Mumbai) where I grew up, was dotted with numerous small bakeries. None of the fancy-schmancy patisserie or delicatessen sort of places which abound nowadays selling bread at crazy-assed prices. Just your regular old fashioned bakery, with big, hairy, sweaty, vest clad bakers who grunted out their greeting (who can blame the poor sod’s when they’re up all night) and handed you your warm, fresh loaf for a virtual pittance. I miss those days.

Now most of the milk bread recipes I came across were for sweet milk bread and I wasn’t in the mood for any of that. Plus I had a hunk of Parmesan that I wanted to see the end off. Which basically means that once its gone I have a legitimate excuse to rush to the fromagerie (oh who am I kidding! I mean the local deli which also stocks cheese) and pamper myself to a whole new selection of yumminess… ummmmmm.

So yeah, Parmesan it was and Rosemary, a 1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon of the former and 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons of the latter… The +’s for sprinkling on top of the loaf before baking.

I used about 3 cups of all purpose flour, to 2 cups of warm low-fat milk and about 12gms of fresh yeast. Activating the yeast in the milk with a teaspoon of sugar. Adding it into the flour with 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower oil), mixing it in well, before sprinkling in the grated Parmesan and the Rosemary, and kneading it well. 

Prove the dough for 2 hours or till it more than doubles in size. Then knock it back and shape into a loaf.

Place into a prepared loaf-pan and allow to prove for another hour.

Brush the top of the loaf with an egg-wash… and score the top, before sprinkling on the extra cheese and rosemary. Bake the loaf in a 200 degrees C preheated oven for 35 minutes or till the top turns a nice golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Cool the loaf and turn it out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Slice it up…. and Enjoy.

This loaf produced such a nice soft crumb and the flavour .was delicious, with the Parmesan and Rosemary coming through… but not too strong. A dish worthy of YeastSpotting.

I guess you don’t have to be a big, hairy, sweaty, vest clad baker to bake delicious milk bread… 😉

Four Seed Rye Sourdough Knots

I’m on a Rye Bread trip. I love the taste, the texture and the fact that it’s so darn nutritious, I almost don’t feel guilty scarfing down an entire loaf.

This time however I decided to make rolls and I must say that reading Danya’s (edible substance’s) post on the Chilli and Cheese Sourdough Baps that she and her sister Vered (EatNowTalkLater) made recently, inspired me to try and make these Sourdough Knotted Rolls. Here’s a huge thank you for the inspiration girls!

Unfortunately though, here in Mumbai you don’t get ready rye sour, so I hunted around till I came across a nice and easy recipe from ‘thebarefootkitchenwitch‘. Now the barefoot kitchen witch’s recipe for rye sour called for onions, yeast, caraway seeds, rye flour and water. I made half the quantity mentioned in the original recipe, letting it stand for over 24 hours to develop that nice sour tang. So a big shout goes out to ‘The Barefoot Kitchen Witch’ for her lovely recipe.

And since I love seed bread (and you’ve probably figured that out by now) I decided to go the whole hog. Putting in white sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, caraway seeds and poppy seeds.

Here are my ‘Four Seed Rye Sourdough Knots’. I got a dozen (that’s twelve rolls and not a baker’s dozen) from the ingredients that I put in.

Ingredients for the Rolls –

1 1/2 cups rye sour

1 teaspoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

12gms fresh yeast

2 3/4 cups of flour (extra for dusting or kneading as required)

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons white sesame seeds

2 tablespoons caraway seeds

1 tablespoon poppy seeds (+ extra for sprinkling)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 1/4 cup warm water

1 egg – beaten

* (1 tablespoon honey + 1 tablespoon olive oil) (optional)

I’m still respectfully wary of yeast, and approach it the usual way… with warm water, sugar and fingers crossed. Before moving on to toast the seeds to bring out their nuttiness. Letting them cool completely before putting them into a bowl and reserving them for later.

Then measured out the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl, adding in the yeast and the olive oil, combining the ingredients partially, before stirring in the rye sour, and the mixed seeds into the yeasty flour mix.

Knead the mix well for about 8 – 10 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. If required, and only if the dough is too sticky, add in a sprinkling of extra dough, a little at a time, being extremely careful not to add in too much.

Leave the dough to prove in a greased bowl covered with cling film for about an hour and a half to two hours.

Once the dough has doubled, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, knock it back, and knead again. rolling it out into a thick log, which you can then cut.

I got about 12 average size pieces.

Roll out each piece into a thick cord and loop around to shape the rolls into knots.Place the rolls onto parchment paper lined trays and leave to prove again for about 30 minutes till nicely puffed up.

Meanwhile preheat the oven to 210 degrees C for about 20 minutes.

I had initially planned on brushing the tops of the rolls with an egg wash before sprinkling on some poppy seeds, but I also wanted to give some to my brother, and he suffers from an egg allergy. Even the slightest trace has him in the ER… You can well imagine my sister and I having a blast as kids, polishing off all the cakes and other eggy treats he couldn’t lay his hands on. But that was a long long time ago and I’m all grown up… Oh yes I am! So I decided to brush his half of the rolls with a mix of honey and olive oil, before sprinkling on the toasted poppy seeds.

I brushed the other half of the rolls with the egg wash, and sprinkled on the poppy seeds.

The honey and olive oil brushed rolls were baked first, for about 25 – 30 minutes. And kept carefully aside when they were done. Far, far away from the egg wash brushed rolls, which followed them into the oven.

Both the batches turned out great… and tasted amazingly good.

The rolls were delicious fresh off the oven, with a pat of butter.

And I had one the next day for brunch, with a fluffy spring onion, sun-dried tomato and Parmesan omelet with some grilled tomatoes on the side.

And the Bread Adventures continue….

Crusty Herbed Olive Oil Rolls with Sunflower Seeds

For starters let me tell you that this was the one that almost got away… and it was nothing other than a Christmas miracle that saved it from certain disaster.

I’m a relative novice at bread making… considering that it takes years and years to master the art, and then you realise that there’s so much more to learn. But I’m in it for the long-haul, with plenty of enthusiasm and a burning desire to bake, bake, bake… but I try not to leave things to chance. So every time I put some dough to prove, I’m crossing the air and invoking the good Lord to ‘give me this day my daily bread’. So far so good.

But I suppose even the good Lord can be wicked on occasion and mess with a fledgling baker… just for a few laughs.

It happened two nights ago. I couldn’t sleep, the Christmas cake done… its heady aroma still lingering in the air, so I figured I may as well get out of bed and prep some dough for a batch of bread the next morning. Now, I’ve been dying to bake olive oil bread rolls, so decided to go ahead and bake a batch using dried herbs (I used oregano and parsley) and some toasted Sunflower Seeds.

I activated the yeast (fresh yeast) in warm water and sugar, added in the flour, some milk powder, the dried herbs, some of the sunflower seeds, salt and the olive oil. Mixed it, crossed the air as always and kept it in a place I’ve used before for proving the dough… and slept. Woke up the next morning and… the dough was the way it was when I put it in… damn!

Now Mumbai isn’t cold by any standard even in December, but it’s been cooler this year… and I guess 2 am isn’t the time to be proving dough in a cool and draughty kitchen. So I added an additional 1/2 teaspoon of yeast to warm water, with a pinch of sugar and a little olive oil… bunged it into the dough… knead it around a bit… and stuck it into a slightly warm oven which I had used and turned off a half hour before… and left it there for a couple of hours… and that’s when it happened.

The dough took on this gorgeously puffy aerated look and doubled in size. All I had to do was knock it back, flour the board, knead it for about 5 minutes, and roll it out to form thick cords, which I eased into muffin trays dusted with cornmeal.

Now someone may say – that’s elementary… but hey! I’m a relative novice at bread making.

Brushing the tops of the rolls with paprika infused olive oil, and sprinkling on some more sunflower seeds and parsley.

Allow the rolls to stand for about 30 minutes before baking them in an oven preheated to 220 degrees C for 15 minutes. Cover the top with aluminium foil and spray the oven walls and floor a couple of times to help the rolls get a nice crust. Then remove the foil and bake uncovered for an additional 10 minutes or the rolls turn golden brown and the edges turn crusty.

You may brush the tops with egg-wash at this point, just to ensure that the sunflower seeds sprinkled on the rolls stay on the bread once they’re removed from the oven. But this is entirely up to you. If you do brush with egg, then bake for an additional 3 – 5 minutes.

Remove the muffin trays from the oven and transfer the rolls into a breadbasket to keep them warm.

Oh by the way… the muffin tray ended up being a great idea, as the steam made the bottoms of the rolls really crisp and crunchy.

So cut into one and drizzle on the extra virgin olive oil or eat it as it is…

Or you can slice it across the middle, put in a pat of butter, a smear of mustard and a couple of slices of salami… and take a nice big bite.

And remember… that what may seem like a disaster can at times turn into something incredibly delicious and even better than you anticipated.

Here are the ingredients –

1 ½ – 2 teaspoon fresh yeast

4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil + 2 tablespoon for brushing tops of rolls (mixed with ½ teaspoon paprika)

2 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt + extra for sprinkling on top of rolls

3 ½ cups flour + extra for dusting

3 tablespoon dried milk powder

3 teaspoon dried oregano

3 teaspoon dried parsley + extra for sprinkling

2 tablespoon sunflower seeds + 1 tablespoon for sprinkling on top

1 egg for brushing tops (optional)

¾ to 1 cup warm water